Matheny, Perkins to duel in Center City Park

A Greensboro City Council meeting turned dangerously old school last week as District 3 Councilman Zack Matheny challenged at-large Councilman Robbie Perkins to a duel.

Trouble has been brewing between the two for months as they clashed on issues like the downtown nightlife ordinances and re-opening of the White Street Landfill. Oddly enough, it was a less controversial issue that sparked the conflict: discussion of a rubber-tire trolley car to service the downtown area.

As council debated the merits and disadvantages of the trolley, talk turned to the city’s past and the fact that trolley service began in 1934 in Greensboro.

“Of course, Mr. Perkins probably remembers when they put that in,” Matheny said in an apparent jibe at the councilman’s age.

Then Perkins did one of those things where he said something derogatory about Matheny disguised as a cough — the phrase was unintelligible from the seating area, but it was enough to send Matheny off into a rage.

“That’s it!” he shouted. “I’ve had it!” A short argument ensued, which was broken up by Mayor Bill Knight, who suggested that, according to his interpretation of Robert’s Rules of Order, it was time to “take this outside and settle it like gentlemen.”

The first recorded duel fought on North Carolina soil occurred in 1765, between Alexander Simpson and Thomas Whitehurst, both officers in the Royal Navy, over an argument about a woman.

The NC General Assembly declared dueling to be illegal in 1802, though the practice continued unabated for more than 50 years. The last recorded duel on North Carolina soil took place in Wilmington, between Joseph H. Flanner and Dr. William Crawford Willkings in 1856.

Matheny seized on the idea with gusto.

“Yes! A duel!” he said. “Center City Park at dawn, with pistols.”

Some debate ensued among the council, with District 1 Councilwoman Dianne Bellamy-Small reminding Matheny that shooting firearms downtown is prohibited by the nightlife ordinance.

“And,” District 4 Councilwoman Trudy Wade added, “the park doesn’t even open until 7 a.m.”

The idea of using fencing foils was discussed, but quickly dismissed as neither combatant was willing to actually suffer an injury in defense of his position or to settle the beef. Nunchuks, baseball bats and Tasers were also suggested but ultimately declined.

By 11:30 p.m. it was settled that the weapon of choice would be toy lightsabers, the kind widely available for purchase in toy stores and on the internet. Both agreed to a “no hitting in the face” rule.

The duel is set for Friday, April 1, also known as April Fool’s Day, at Center City Park at 7 a.m. Anyone wishing to place a bet on the outcome of the duel should e-mail Brian Clarey at Serious inquiries only.

(April fools)’